\nä-ˈstal-jə, nə- also nȯ-, nō-; nə-ˈstäl-\
: pleasure and sadness that is caused by remembering something from the past and wishing that you could experience it again
1 : the state of being homesick : homesickness
2 : a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition; also : something that evokes nostalgia
And here's where I tell you that nostalgia is the most misused, overused, and overly simplistic word in modern MMO discourse.
Look back at the definition of nostalgia. It mentions "experiencing something again," and some "irrecoverable condition." But see, there is no irrecoverable condition when it comes to MMOs. Preferring EverQuest or Star Wars: Galaxies or group-centric gameplay or sandbox crafting isn't the same as pining for the days of horse-drawn carriages and gentlemanly fedoras.
SWG and its contemporaries are imminently recoverable, at least in mechanical terms. Sure, we'll probably never see the game again as an SOE-produced Star Wars MMO, but all of its functioning ideas and systems can and should be revisited by present and future MMO devs.
The "progress" of the MMO genre away from virtual worlds like Ultima Online and SWG certainly made lots of money for a small handful of investors, and so it can therefore be labeled a success from a certain point of view. But it also co-opted an entire genre that was different and homogenized it into the same old video game paradigm that we've been grinding at for 40-odd years.
In other words, it wasn't artistically progressive at all. It was regression, a rollback, or at best, a decade-long detour that we're just now starting to outgrow.
And look, I know why modern MMO fans and SWG detractors use the word nostalgia. It's quick, it's easy, and it's a label that both (incorrectly) defines an other and allows the labeler to get over the fact that he missed out on something that a significant number of his peers found fun.
Now, the statute of limitations on nostalgia is certainly subjective, but to me it's silly and illogical to dismiss SWG-related carousing as nostalgia in 2014. If we're having this same discussion in 2024 -- and we probably will be since modern MMO devs thus far can't be bothered to make much beyond a combat lobby -- then I might entertain the notion of nostalgia and misremembered greatness.
But then again maybe I won't because I'll always be able to look at a list of features and see that SWG had this, this, this, and this while most of the post-2004 MMO pretenders had this. That's objective fact, unless and until another MMO comes along that's similarly ambitious and functional. I hear what some of you are saying, and you're right: Change is a fact of life. I'm not disputing that so much as I'm disputing naive platitudes like "change is good" and "you can never go back."
Sure, newer can be subjectively good in its own way, but some things mark you. And if you're able, you seek to keep those things in that particular moment in time so that you can continue to enjoy them. This is natural. It's human, and it's certainly not deserving of mockery or the sort of ignorantly juvenile dismissal that the word "nostalgia" has come to signify in MMO circles. And as I said earlier, we're lucky to have a purely digital hobby where hop-skotching back and forth along the historical timeline is not only possible but easily doable. There's simply no reason for a loaded word like nostalgia to ever surface in an informed MMO discussion.
But here's the thing: When you blacklist old schoolers with a thoughtlessly inadequate word like nostalgia, it just outs you as yet another bandwagoneer looking to deify the new and demonize the traditional. There's nothing wrong with new school, but there's also nothing wrong with old school. There is something wrong with hijacking a word like nostalgia and using it incorrectly over and over again until its actual meaning is distorted by popular interpretation.
With that in mind, do us all a favor and stop with the MMO nostalgia logic fail. It doesn't make an iota of sense, and you're smarter than that.
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